Hotel workers take minimum wage battle to Labour Court
THE first employer to try to cut the pay of staff on the minimum wage did not show up for a Labour Court hearing into the dispute.
Noel O'Callaghan -- owner of the Davenport Hotel in Dublin and an uncle of Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary -- was represented by a former Federation of Irish Employers (FIE) executive, Eugene McCarthy.
Mr McCarthy made a case for a 86c-an-hour reduction in housekeeping workers' pay.
He was representing the O'Callaghan Hotel Group at a Labour Court hearing into a row with five workers who were on the old national minimum wage rate of €8.65 an hour.
The staff, all from eastern Europe, claim that they were struck off the payroll for refusing to accept the pay cut on the same day that the new minimum wage rate came into force.
If they accepted the cut, their pay would fall to €7.79 an hour, just 14c higher than the new minimum wage rate of €7.65.
The women mounted pickets outside the Dublin hotel last month in protest at the move.
They claimed that Mr O'Callaghan called them to a meeting and told them they must agree to the cut "to support the Government".
When he arrived at the Labour Court, hotel management representative Eugene McCarthy refused to comment.
SIPTU sector organiser Pat Ward said the union believed it had a very strong case. The union only represents the Davenport Hotel workers, but the group also includes the Mont Clare, O'Callaghan St Stephen's Green and Alexander Hotel.
"The ramifications extend beyond the five workers in the hotel and we believe that fairness will prevail," said Mr Ward.
Following yesterday's hearing, the court will issue a decision to resolve the dispute.
The hotel group and SIPTU have agreed to be bound by this recommendation.
The hearing is a test case for legislation that came into force last month to reduce the minimum wage by €1 an hour to €7.65.
However, the new lower minimum wage rate of €7.65 is only likely to exist for a few months as the likely coalition partners of Fine Gael and Labour have committed to reverse the cut.